Mark DeGarmo Dance previewed its new work, Las Fridas, named after the Frida Kahlo painting of the same title, December 16th. Originally conceived as an introspective piece for two women, DeGarmo himself stepped in to dance the role of “Light Frida” for this preview. (They company will tour Las Fridas in Mexico in 2016.) Though the piece’s original intent was flipped somewhat—given a new, accidental dimension with the addition of a man—the work still shone as a study in two sides of Frida Kahlo.
Marie Baker-Lee, dancing the role of Frida Kahlo, was mesmerizing. Each slow motion turn of the head, each simple step forward was fraught with joy, pain, or fear. Each flick of the wrist was a defiance, and a reflection of a fighter until the very end. Deeply rooted in the choreography, the story, and the painter’s essence, she brought to life the Frida Kahlo that could have been, had she lived past the time of her young death.
Using projections of arthritic feet and hands—those of Judith Malina and Maxine Greene, respectively—the piece brings to center stage something that is frequently the elephant in the room when it comes to dance: aging. Neither DeGarmo nor Baker-Lee are young dancers; their performance brings the focus of this work to the aging body, as well as to the aging of relationships with other people and the self. In imagining Kahlo's continuing relationship with herself into old age, DeGarmo succeeds in reflecting the human condition when it comes to aging.
As an homage to Kahlo and the culture she always used as a backdrop for her art, the work achieves its goals beautifully, but Las Fridas could easily stand alone as a study in the progression of time, and the inevitable dissonance that occurs when what you see in the mirror is no longer the way you feel inside.